Lesson Plan

"Because I could not stop for Death" -- Visualizing Meaning and Tone

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This "Because I could not stop for Death" -- Visualizing Meaning and Tone lesson plan also includes:

Emily Dickinson's "Because I could not stop for Death" provides high schoolers with an opportunity to practice their critical thinking skills. They examine the images, diction, rhythm, and rhyme scheme the poet uses and consider how these choices contribute to the meaning and tone of the poem.

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CCSS: Designed
Instructional Ideas
  • Create a list of words that may be unfamiliar to readers (immortality, civility, gossamer, tippet, tulle, cornice, surmised) and have groups determine their meaning before distributing the poem
  • Before launching a discussion of the tone of the poem, review the devices writers use to create the tone in their works (the sounds of the words, the positive or negative images, the rhythm of the lines, the rhyme schemes)
  • Have readers replace words (hearse for carriage, abruptly for kindly, smoking factory for school) and ask how the substitution changes the tone of the poem
  • Rather than a teacher-led conversation, first provide groups with the discussion questions and have them develop explanations that they then share with the entire class
Classroom Considerations
  • It would be helpful, but not necessary, if class members are familiar with Dickinson's conventions (the frequent use of dashes and capitalized words)
  • Requires individual copies of the poem and the worksheets
  • Also appropriate for grades 11 and 12
  • Have individuals create their own poster to share with the class along with an explanation for why they chose the images in their illustration
  • The seven-page packet includes a detailed plan, worksheets, discussion questions, and an illustrated poster that includes the poem
  • None